One of the requirements for political success is a knack for being lucky — and who is to say that "luck" is not an actual physical attribute of some fourth-dimensional kind? In any case, our current mayor, A C Wharton, seems to have his share of luck. His latest good fortune is to be able to announce this early in his term a major triumph of litigation.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled in favor of Memphis in its defense against allegations from the state of Mississippi that the city was siphoning more than its rightful share of water from the underground aquifer that it shares with our neighbors to the south. This is a matter that has been pending for the last five years, and thus, in all fairness, the administration of former Mayor Willie Herenton is entitled to share, retroactively, in the aura of success.
Only last year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Tennessee had to be named, along with Memphis and MLGW, as a party to Mississippi's suit and that only the Supreme Court could rule on the matter. Both those rulings and the final resolution in the city's favor by the high court owe much to the legal efforts of a team headed by Leo Bearman Jr., who was credited by both Wharton and MLGW president and CEO Jerry Collins as having been largely responsible for the outcome.
The mayor made a special point of observing that an adverse decision would have had serious repercussions for Memphis and Shelby County — both in inhibiting future economic development and in immediate tax burdens that would have been placed on local citizens to maintain an already threatened level of basic local services.
Our congratulations to Bearman and his team, to CEO Collins and his predecessors, and to mayors Wharton and Herenton. And we add this wish for the current mayor: Stay lucky!
... and Cause for Concern
And here's a wish that Wharton's mayoral luck not only continues but rubs off on his successor as interim county mayor, Joe Ford, who won the approval of the Shelby County Commission Monday for an add-on contribution to the operation of the Med this year of $10 million, raising the county's share of support from $27 million to $37 million.
Challenged by several commissioners about how those additional county funds could be accounted for long-term, Ford was forced to admit that a list of financial projections from county CAO Jim Huntzicker were largely conjectural, at best. In fact, without additional support from the city of Memphis and from state and federal sources, the outlook for the Med's survival, at least at its current level of operations, remains problematic.
Another point on which the Med and its supporting officials require not only luck but justice is that, as commissioners Mike Ritz and George Flinn made a point of noting Monday, state government has long been in the habit of withholding and distributing elsewhere the lion's share of federal funds disbursed to Tennessee for uncompensated medical care rendered by the Med. Along with the essentially free ride still given residents of Missisippi and Arkansas receiving treatment at the Med, Tennessee's official neglect remains a scandal.